“Truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are.”
I don’t know if I’m just in a particularly fractious mood today, but the second episode of the perennially cheerful Call the Midwife seemed more clumsily sentimental than usual.
Let me qualify that statement: I know that Call the Midwife has always been sentimental. I know it is schmaltzy and fluffy and not at all serious, and that it avoids anything even approaching reality. And I’ve never had a problem with that sentimentality, because, let’s be honest, it’s a great antidote to Silent Witness. Also Real Life.
Here, though, the episode’s attempts to Make Everything Better in one hour just come across as ham-fisted.
So the residents of Nunatus House are presented with a number of challenges in this episode. Sister Julienne is contacted by an old flame who wants to donate to Nunatus House, and she finds herself contemplating the Road Not Travelled; an experienced new midwife rocks up and quickly upsets the way of things among the residents; Trixie becomes fiendish about her wedding plans; and Nurse Gilbert is faced with a horrific challenge as a birth goes wrong.
All of these little challenges are set up and resolved in the space of one episode, which essentially means that all of those resolutions have to be slightly pat, and in a couple of cases simply out of the blue, since there’s no time convincingly to resolve all of them. The episode feels deeply unsatisfactory as a result: if everything was so easy, why did we worry about it? If it had no lasting repercussions, why did we just spend an hour watching it?
Additionally, several scenes (most glaringly those featuring Sister Julienne and her Old Flame) feel overworked and frankly maudlin; this is the point when sentimentality tips into simply unwatchable mush.
I hope this is just a blip, because I don’t want to complain about Call the Midwife. I want it to stay nice and fluffy and happy so I can watch it after a long day. But, while this episode wasn’t terrible, it was…embarrassing, for the show as a whole.